The feast is rejoiced by Goans all over the state, though the dates of celebration may vary. Large scale festivities and fun events mark the feast, which is spread over a period of nine days and a wide array of food and drinks are available for people to enjoy. Church services begin as early as 4 am and people come together in huge numbers to revere this beloved saint. The ambience of Goa during the festival is truly dynamic, as thousands of people come together to pay their respects to the saint and enjoy the festivities.
Early Life of St Francis Xavier
St Francis Xavier was born in Spain on April 7, 1506. He came to India with the Portuguese Viceroy of Goa in 1543 and took up the task of educations the people of Goa. He roamed bout the streets in a hired town crier requesting the people to attend his meetings and listen to his sermons. As he was not well versed with the local language if the Goans he took the aid of the Goan scholars and translated the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Ave Maria. Under the guardianship and political authority the inhabitants of 30 villages got baptized. He was able to secure pensions, even for the petty princes who converted to Christianity, from the King of Portugal.
St. Francis travelled to the Spice Islands in 1545 and then stayed in Japan in 1549 for a year to spread the messages of Christ. He received remarkable achievement in Japan where he could get hundreds of people converted to Christianity. Subsequently he returned to India for a time period of 15 months. Later he proceeded to China, against the wishes of the Portuguese viceroy. St Francis died of fever on December 2, 1552 in the Sancian Island, about 10 kilometres from the mainland of China.
Legend of St. Francis Xavier
According to legend some Portuguese merchants located him just before he breathed his last. They performed his last rites on the next day and buried him in a box. After a few months a Jesuit brother unearthed the body and discovered, to his amazement, that it did not decay. He then cut a finger from the body and was surprised to see blood ooze out. This incident was reported to the Vatican who conferred upon the title of Saint to Xavier.
The body was buried in a cemetery in Malacca for about two years until it was brought to its final resting place in Goa. Until then, even though the body was anointed, it was only slightly affected by death. Before the mortal remains of the saint were placed in a silver casket in the Church of Bom Jesus, one hand was cut off from the body.
The Healing Power
Before St. Xavier was buried pieces of his cut off hand were spread to various parts of the world, under orders of the Pope. Earlier after every ten years on the death anniversary of St. Xaviers was exposed to the public and was kept in a glass case. The feet were exposed, for all to see and worship. For the exposition, people from all over India used to flock to the church for a glimpse of the saint. The last exposition was held in 1994. Since the condition of the body had deteriorated visibly, the church had decided that the body would not be displayed anymore. During the festival many stalls are put up that sell trinkets and souvenirs in the fair. Tourists can make avail of the wide variety of food and drinks are also available. The ambience of the church site is also remains pleasing and gratifying.